The 2009 tight end class proved to provide fantasy owners with next to nothing in production. That won’t be the case this season, as one of the most talented crops of tight ends have entered the league in the past decade. Here are my rankings for fantasy owners:
Jermaine Gresham – Cincinnati Bengals
A gifted receiver who was an integral part in Sam Bradford winning the Heisman Trophy in 2008, Jermaine Gresham is an extremely talented player who may be the best tight end prospect to enter the NFL since Kellen Winslow Jr. With a tall, long frame as well as terrific hands to pluck the ball out of the air, Gresham is a perfect player to stretch the seam for an offense. While the Bengals haven’t had a productive tight end in quite awhile, Gresham figures to be a player who they can build their new offense around. In dynasty leagues, think of Gresham as having the potential of today’s Vernon Davis. His potential is sky-high, and while he may not produce as much as rookie thanks to Terrell Owens entering the mix, there is no doubt in my mind that he should be a Top 10 pick in dynasty league drafts. In re-draft leagues, Gresham should be a nice sleeper to target in the second half of the draft as a backup tight end for a team in year one.
Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
A polished product at the tight end position, Rob Gronkowski landed in an ideal fit for his skill set. An all-around, complete tight end prospect, Gronkowski is a reliable receiver down the field as well as being a consistent blocker in the run game. Gronkowski projects in the NFL as an in-line tight end for New England, more of a traditional type who they can rely on to stretch the seam. Coming off a back injury that wouldn’t allow for him to play the 2009 season, Gronkowski have a slow start as a rookie, but he’s a player to target in dynasty leagues. With the way that the Patriots like to spread the ball around, Gronkowski should be a nice prospect for owners looking long-term.
Ed Dickson – Baltimore Ravens
A talented receiving prospect from Oregon, Ed Dickson enters the fray in Baltimore where Todd Heap has struggled to stay healthy over the course of his inconsistent career. Dickson has the talent and skills to contribute immediately in the passing game; however, because he isn’t going to be the No. 1, No. 2, or even No. 3 target as a rookie, expectations should be tempered for this season. Looking long-term, Dickson projects as an option as a slot/H-Back where he can be moved around to get the ball into his hands. Dickson presents high upside, but will be competing against Dennis Pitta for the No. 2 tight end role this season.
Aaron Hernandez – New England Patriots
Unlike his new teammate Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez has the skills to produce immediately as a rookie. As a potential slot receiver with the Patriots, Hernandez has the speed and athleticism to be a fine No. 3 or No. 4 target for the Pats this year. While he won’t offer much as a blocker early on, Hernandez could have a role in New England similar to the one he had at Florida, working underneath routes to pick up yards after the catch. Keep an eye on the situation in New England and adjust your rankings accordingly, based on how the Patriots use each of their new receiving threats.
Dennis Pitta – Baltimore Ravens
With a similar game to Indianapolis’ Dallas Clark, Dennis Pitta is a very reliable option in the passing game whose consistency will win over both the coaches in Baltimore as well as fantasy owners. Like teammate Ed Dickson, Pitta is best served to play in the slot where he can catch the ball and pick up yards after the catch. Best case scenario for Pitta would be a Dallas Clark/Chris Cooley type of player who, like Dickson, can move around to make plays all over the field. I don’t think Pitta will be too much of an impact player in 2010, however he could prove to be a nice target in the Ravens’ passing game down the road. In re-draft leagues, I’d wait on him, but in dynasty leagues, I’d keep an eye on him.
Tony Moeaki – Kansas City Chiefs
The oft-injured prospect from Iowa, Moeaki didn’t go an entire season in college without being injured one way or another. He’s a talented receiver whose complete skill set as a run blocker will give him the opportunity to win playing time early; there’s even some talk that he could be the team’s starting tight end Week 1. If he can stay healthy, Moeaki could be a solid tight end for the Chiefs, however that’s a very big IF. Because he has a chance to earn early playing time, Moeaki could be an option as a backup tight end in re-draft leagues this season. Because there’s a risk that he won’t stay healthy, I’d have a small red flag by him in dynasty league drafts.
Jimmy Graham – New Orleans Saints
The former basketball player-turned-football player, Jimmy Graham was one of the most talented and athletic players in this past year’s draft, however he was also one of the most raw. Graham needs quite a bit of development, however once he gets a better grasp of the game, he should have the opportunity to make an impact in the passing game in New Orleans. With a tall, long frame, he will offer Drew Brees a giant target in the passing game who can get down field quickly. I don’t think you can expect much from him as a rookie, however I’d have Graham circled and highlighted in dynasty leagues as a player I would want to get.
Andrew Quarless – Green Bay Packers
Andrew Quarless is a similar player to his new teammate Jermichael Finley, in that he likely won’t offer much as a run bloker, however he offers tons of potential and upside in the receiving game. With great hands as well as the tall frame and athleticism to stretch the seam quickly, Quarless could team with Finley to give the Packers one of the most talented tight end duo’s in the league. Quarless had some off-field problems at Penn State, however if he can develop quickly, he could be a nice No. 2 tight end for the Packers in the future.
Other TE's to keep your eye on:
Dorin Dickerson – Houston Texans
This very talented receiver is being moved to wideout in Houston. More or less, keep an eye on him, as he has the talent to develop quickly and explode with a big game at some point later this season.
Anthony McCoy – Seattle Seahawks
Landing with his college head coach in Pete Carroll is a great fit for McCoy, who should have the opportunity to develop into a nice No. 2 tight end behind John Carlson.
Fendi Onobun – St. Louis Rams
This talented player is a true sleeper who dynasty owners will want to keep their eyes on this year.